Prepare. Stay awake. Be ready.

In this season of anticipation, join us in reflection and song. You will find a short audio program added each day of Advent. Only a few minutes long, each installment includes scripture, reflection, and a musical selection.

“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Revelation 11

On this feast day of La Virgen de Guadalupe, this passage from Revelations continues with the woman in labor, a seven-headed dragon ready to devour her child. Rather than being arrested by this apocalyptic science fiction story, imagine the glory of the cosmos, as famous poet Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “and by a comet the sky is torn; yet Love still takes the risk of birth.”

Music Selections: Emmanuel from Colours 2 (de Silva, G-9737), Las Mañanitas (arr. Pena, CD 322)

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11

If you’ve come across this Advent calendar, perhaps there’s a good chance that you are a choir director. Sometimes, more than shaping voices, you are responsible for shaping individuals as they bring their burdens and concerns and struggles. In these final rehearsals before Christmas, may you have the strength to bear the burdens of your ministry as you lead your choir and congregation to the sweet encounter that is Christ.

Music Selections: Emmanuel from Colours 2 (de Silva, G-9737), Come To Me, O Weary Traveler (arr. Tate, text: Dunstan, G-9135)

”Comfort, give comfort to my people says your God.” Isaiah 40

No one doubts the sincerity of the charity, generosity, and comfort extended in the holiday season, whether it be assisting at community Thanksgiving dinners, donating on Giving Tuesday, or dropping a coin in a red kettle. And yet even these moments of kindness are surprised by the true comfort of knowing that each of us is created in the image and likeness of the God whose coming is certain, the God who is already, and not-yet.

Music Selections: Emmanuel from Colours 2 (de Silva, G-9737), Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People (Bourgeois, Goudimel, arr. Alonso, G-9461)

“The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.” Genesis 3

We can trace the origin of Eve’s name back to the Hebrew word “Chava,” which means life. It’s why we chose to name my daughter “Ava,”—since she escaped a brush with death in the womb, her whole being echoed that great word of praise—life. Today as we celebrate the beginning of life for the Mother of God, I can’t help but feel called to embrace Mary’s commitment to life in midst of impossible circumstances, and her incredible ability to continue to say “yes,” to God, turning the whole world upside down as she turns “Eva” into “Ave.”

Music Selections: Emmanuel from Colours 2 (de Silva, G9737), Ave Maria (Kantor, G-3958)

“A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” Matthew 3

My alma mater, Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, features a magnificent statue of St. John the Baptist with a greatly exaggerated throat and larynx. As John the Baptist returns this weekend and speaks with prophetic voice that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, where are you this Advent season? Do you need first need to be a prophetic voice or to hear the call to repentance and reconciliation?

Music Selections: Emmanuel from Colours 2 (de Silva, G-9737), Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord (Moore, G-2880)

“The light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater like the light of seven days.” Isaiah 30

Later this week we’ll be treated to a full moon. Let us not forget, that that face in the moon itself does not give off light—it simply reflects the light of the sun. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins reminds us that Christ, who plays in ten thousand places, is reflected through the features of our faces. Together we walk, children basking in radiance.

Music Selections: Advent Suite from Seasons of Grace, vol. 2 (Tate, G-6919), I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light (Thomerson, arr. Proulx,  G-8758)

“On that day, the deaf shall hear the words of a book. And out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 29

In today’s first reading we hear that the deaf shall hear, the blind shall see, the lowly shall find joy, the poor rejoice, and the tyrant will be no more. We know we will hear this string of impossibilities echoed again in the words of a young Jewish girl who finds herself in the midst of her own paradox. This is a God who does impossible things, for nothing is impossible for God. The whole world is about to turn.

Music Selections: Advent Suite from Seasons of Grace, vol. 2 (Tate, G-6919), Canticle of the Turning (Cooney, G-3407) 

“Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith.” Isaiah 26

Today’s first reading and Gospel present the image of the Lord as Rock. What defines strength, majesty, and power? A rock? A strong city? A fortress? Yes—but perhaps the One who comes to save us takes on the form of true vulnerability—a tiny babe, a refugee, an innocent. Look up. Pay attention. Lift up your heads.

Music Selections: Advent Suite from Seasons of Grace, vol. 2 (Tate, G-6919), Lift Up Your Heads (Bell, G-5494)

“On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples. The web that is woven over all nations. He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.” Isaiah 25

Today’s first reading tells us that God will prepare a feast of rich foods and choice wines—juicy rich foods and pure choice wines. What are you hungry for? Do you hunger for justice? Do you hunger for righteousness? How do you feed the hunger of others? Those who hunger for peace? For forgiveness? For love?

Music Selections: Advent Suite from Seasons of Grace, vol. 2 (Tate, G-6919), New Heaven and Earth (Cotter, G-9345)

“There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the water covers the sea.” Isaiah 11

Perhaps because I wanted a few more days of doom and gloom and hints of the end of the world, this beautiful message from Isaiah seems a little out of place this first week of Advent. But perhaps that’s the lesson—sometimes the God of Surprises brings unexpected moments of joy in the midst of hardship, pain, and fear.

Music Selections: Advent Suite from Seasons of Grace, vol. 2 (Tate, G-6919), Lo, How A Rose Ere Blooming, (Sandstrom, WSK120)

“Brothers and Sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. Let us throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13

Those of us in the northern hemisphere become keenly aware this time of year that the night comes quicker, and darkness will soon envelop us. How blessed we are in this Advent season to know that the Christ-light will overcome the darkness! Stay awake. Be ready.

Music Selections: Advent Suite from Seasons of Grace, vol. 2 (Tate, G-6919), Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning (Gray, WW1633)

“I rejoiced when I heard them say, let us go to the house of the Lord” Psalm 122

Some clever planning by the framers of the lectionary provide an opportunity for reflection today: The psalm for the last Sunday of Year C, the Solemnity of Christ the King, is the same psalm for the first Sunday of Year A, the first Sunday of Advent. The wonderful symbolism of this connection reminds us that our very lives on earth are a pilgrimage, ordered towards the house of the Lord.

Music Selections: Advent Suite from Seasons of Grace, vol. 2 (Tate, G-6919), I Rejoiced When I Heard Them Say (Proulx, G-3780)